Total Defence my way

Cef Siti Mastura, one of the Singaporeans who have contributed towards Total Defence.

SINGAPORE - To commemorate 30 years of total defence, the theme for Total Defence Day 2014 - Because You Played A Part - reaffirms the role everyday Singaporeans play in keeping our country safe and secure. TAN TAM MEI (tantam@sph.com.sg) speaks to two people who have contributed in their own way.

He Protects

Becoming a police officer was his childhood dream, inspired by his days of playing "police and thief".

Although Mr Ong Beng Siong did not join the police force, he has fulfilled this dream of his by taking to the streets at night to patrol his Jurong West neighbourhood on bicycle.

Mr Ong, 50, who works as a security operations executive, has been heading the Citizens-on-Patrol Hotwheels programme, which is a joint initiative by the Jurong West Neighbourhood Police Centre and Jurong's grassroots organisation, since July last year. He does his part defending Singapore by patrolling shophouses, residential areas, markets, carparks and petrol stations two to three times a week from 11pm to 6am.

Citizens are usually paired with police officers to conduct the patrol in pairs.

Said Mr Ong: "(The programme) creates the 'kampung spirit' where we take care of each other and each other's homes. You don't see that spirit any more these days."

Besides crime prevention, the group allows him to learn from others, and to make friends.

He also imparts his skills and knowledge from his day job by teaching other members how to handle and respond to threats.

Mr Ong is a certified first responder and has received training from the police force.

"The police usually patrol in a car.

But we (the members) are closer to the ground and are the eyes and ears of, and messengers for the police," he said.

She Empowers

For Ms Siti Mastura, she never thought that her baking and cooking classes would contribute to Singapore's total defence.

Ms Siti, 50, who owns baking school Siti's Delights, trains retrenched workers in cooking and baking to empower them with skills which could open doors and help them generate income.

The well-known celebrity chef in the Malay culinary scene said: "Retrenchment is painful. I want to help people be more prepared and resilient when something like that happens."

A secretary for 21 years, Ms Siti herself was retrenched in 2003.

She decided to get a diploma at the Baking Industry Training Centre.

"Having been retrenched myself, I know how it feels. But we should never stop learning," she said.

When people learn how to cook and bake, they can contribute to the economy by remaining employable and financially independent.

"Your job can be taken away. But a skill is yours to keep. That's why it's important to have a second skill to fall back on, " added Ms Siti.

She has taught almost 6,000 people since 2003, and many of her former students have opened cafes and shops locally and even overseas in countries like Australia.

"Teaching these skills gives my students a new lease of life, and they can bounce back from setbacks," Ms Siti said.

Events for Total Defence 2014

1. Total Defence 30: An Experiential Showcase (Feb 15-23), National Museum

The exhibition takes participants on an introspective journey using light displays, film and interactive installations to show how Singaporeans understand and live out total defence daily.

2. Forum Theatre Performance 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' (Feb 15-23), National Museum

The interactive theatre experience will "transport" audience members to the future, where scenarios of Singapore under crisis will unfold.

3. 'How We Fight the Good Fight: Mystery Speaker Talks' sessions and 'We Are The Stories We Tell Ourselves: A Social Dining Experiment' dinners

Meet mystery speakers who will talk about their lives, their trials and how they overcame adversity. The dinners aim to bring strangers together in conversation to allow them to build trust and understanding in an open environment.

4. Total Defence Walking Trail (Feb 15-23)

The interactive walk will take participants back to the year 1942, when Singapore fell to the Japanese.

5. Exhibition of shortlisted photos from 'A Photo A Week' Contest (Feb 15-23), National Museum

6. 'Thank You' Card Movement

"Thank You" cards will be available in restaurants, cafes and public areas to encourage Singaporeans to recognise and acknowledge those who have played a part in total defence.

tantam@sph.com.sg


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